What would you give to win an Oscar? If we could peer into the minds of the Hollywood wannabe-elite I’m sure we would find many haunting answers to that question, but for me, I would give nothing; I do not want one unless it comes with money, which I do not think it does. And thank god for that. Because what some Oscar winners have given to earn that muscular gold-plated bronze statuette … will haunt you to your core.
The story begins in 2001, with a paper in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine. There, lead author Don Redelmeier, a senior scientist at the Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto, wrote about his team’s research into the life spans of Academy Award winners, losers, and “ultra-losers” (a term not used in the study, but which I am using to describe those actors who have appeared in Oscar-nominated movies, but have not been nominated for the award themselves).
Redelmeier compared the (at that time) 1,649 Academy Award nominees and found that, compared to the losers and ultra-losers, winners (having either intentionally or unintentionally entered into an unfortunate Faustian bargain with the Motion Picture Academy) tended to suffer through an additional 3.9 years of miserable earth-bound existence; on average they lived to 80, compared to the losers’ 76.
A few years later, Marie-Pierre Sylvestre at McGill University published a paper in the same journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, calling bullshit on Redelmeier’s findings. According to Sylvestre, in order to get an accurate read of the Oscar winner’s curse, one would have to measure only the amount of life lived post-Oscar win (or loss, or non-nomination, as the case may be), rather than the amount of life lived since birth. Still, Sylvestre’s findings found winners tended to live about a year longer than losers and ultra-losers.
Now, in 2022, Don Redelmeier and his researchers from the University of Toronto are back at it again, in Annals of Internal Medicine, with basically, as far as I can tell, pretty much that same study from 2001.
In the updated version, researchers compared lifespans of the now 2,111 actors nominated from 1929 to 2020; a larger group than the first time, due to how now more people have been nominated. The Redelmeier gang found an even bigger death gap than they found the first time, with winners living to, on average, age 81, and losers and ultra-losers remaining steadfast at 76.
From what I can tell, the only update to the study from the 2001 attempt, other than the larger dataset, is this time they tried to keep the losers and ultra-losers as close as possible to the age and gender of their winner counterparts. I’m not really buying their findings as any indicator of anything, but, all right, I guess we can believe it for the sake of this post. “Academy Award-winning actors and actresses show a positive association between success and survival,” Redelmeier wrote, “suggesting the importance of behavioral, psychological or other modifiable health factors unrelated to poverty.”
The researchers believe the data suggest that “major success might contribute to individuals behaving in ways that could potentially mitigate the wear-and-tear that can accumulate over years.” Meaning: they’re not as stressed, they make better choices to increase their chances of continuing to win, they sleep better, and so on.
So, do you want to be an Oscar winner, living to see full climate collapse, cursed with watching everyone you love die while having to eat bug protein while plugged into the Metaverse in your tiny futuristic Tesla pod, the air outside unsuitable for breathing, or do you just want to lose and die? It’s your choice, Hollywood. Better think it through.